Tuesday, December 14, 2004

music: wilco, r. kelly, marvin gaye

Some random thoughts on music...

'I Am Trying to Break Your Heart' -- Wilco
I couldn't get the words 'I Am Trying to Break Your Heart' out of my head. Sometimes these things just come to me and and I'm unable to stop thinking about them until I look them up. The internet is a life-saver in this regard, as the library is hard to get to sometimes.

By doing a Google search I found out where I heard the words from: it's the title to the movie about the Wilco album 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot'. This album was turned down by Wilco's label, Reprise Records, as unmarketable and Jeff Tweedy and company refused to change it on artistic merits.

Nonesuch Records eventually released the record, and it became the the critical favorite of 2002. While 'Foxtrot' did not make Wilco a household name, it definately led to a substantial amount of recognition for these guys.

Depending on who you ask about the film 'I am Trying to Break Your Heart,' it is either a portait of a underated band or an infomercial. I haven't seen it, so I officially have no opinion, but if you want to find out some more for yourself click on the links above.

I'm just glad I figured out what it was.

What Is Soul? Not R. Kelly. Not anymore.
While I was on the Wilco article at Slate magazine, I noticed another couple of articles that pegged my interest. One was on R&B singer R. Kelly and his new album 'Happy People/U Saved Me.'

I have respect for R. Kelly's musical talent though I'm not a fan and I think that his personal actions are deplorable. But he is interesting to read about, so I read the article reviewing the album.

The reviwer, Tony Green, makes many interesting points about Kelly's approach for this double album. He describes the neo-soul 'Happy People' as 'a soul album that you refuse to let into your soul.' He describes the tracks as evocative of feel-good Seventies soul but lacking in actual emotion.

The gospel-tinged 'U Saved Me' is viewed with a more critical eye:

'Though U Saved Me has some fairly gorgeous moments, Kelly impresses you as a wayward soul not quite sure of the direction of his spirit. That's at best. At worst, he comes off like a slick con man throwing a spiritual pity party; about as convincing as O.J. wearing a dashiki. '

'Using religion as the last line of defense is a sure sign of depravity—true believers, as a friend once said, use it as their first. For Kelly, who has been referencing his gospel roots all his career, to decide to give his life to the Lord at this particular point seems just a bit convenient.'

Amen to that. I can't do his review true justice so I suggest you read more here.

"Let's Get It On" … Again
Marvin Gaye is another artist I have respect for, though I'm not a fan. His life was so much of a train wreck and the music he produced from his pain was so good that you can't ignore him, though.

I hasd no idea until I read David Ritz's article in Slate that there was a remix out for the seminal classic 'Let's Get It On' from the 1973 album of the same name. Remixers Paul Simpson and Miles Dalto have layered on a groove called steppin', a style of dance music born in Chicago and popularized by R. Kelly's mega-successful single "Step in the Name of Love."

I usually hate seeing people messing with classic works, and 'Let's Get It On' is about as classic as you can get in Seventies soul. But the remix, at least the part I heard of the song, was actually pretty good. After seeing R. Kelly trying to resurrect the ghost of Marvin to to cover up his own pedophilia in a feel-good vibe, it's nice to actually hear the real deal.

The review is better than me talking about it so please read more here.

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